You would think a first start, first podium or first race win might rate as the most important of Daniel Ricciardo’s Formula One career.
But for the affable Aussie, it was a rather nondescript moment three years ago.
Ricciardo endured “one of the worst races of my life” at the 2013 Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.
He finished 15th – well behind Toro Rosso teammate Jean-Eric Vergne in sixth.
It wasn’t his worst result of the season; he’d come 16th, 18th and had two retirements in grands prix prior.
The timing wasn’t great, though, with Red Bull on the lookout for someone to replace countryman Mark Webber who was preparing to announce his retirement.
“Sometimes you’re slow and you can rationalise that because you know why, but that weekend I was bad and I wasn’t sure why,” he said in a column ahead of his 100th GP in Germany this weekend.
“Maybe knowing there was a Red Bull seat available made it worse.
“I’m not going to lie, I didn’t really like race cars much after that weekend. I had to try something different because it just didn’t make sense.”
Ricciardo went to New York for a week to get away from cars and help clear his mind.
And that decision, he reckons, was probably the most important of his time in F1.
“It might have been the turning point in my career,” he said.
“Without that, who knows how it would have turned out?”
The 27-year-old went on to score that seat at Red Bull and three race victories – the first, ironically, in Canada in 2014.
While they’re among his strongest memories, the Australian Grand Prix in 2014 was one of the best weekends of his life – even though he was disqualified from second place.
“I’m not sure where that sits in terms of favourite memories from these 100 races, but it’s right up there,” he said.
Ricciardo doesn’t get much time to reflect on his 99 GPs to date, which started with the now defunct HRT team, mid-season 2011.
He was 22 and somewhat unknown back then.
Now, he’s older than half the grid and his trademark smile is recognised globally.
“My perspective on the sport has changed over the 100 races, and that’s a good thing,” he said.
“My time in F1 has taught me that I don’t think the sport should consume you.
“I generally perform my best when I’m balanced and I’m having a good time doing it.”
Ricciardo is hoping to back-up his podium in Hungary last weekend with a similarly strong result at Hockenheim on Sunday, but admits it will be tough.
“Hopefully there’s something to celebrate as well as my 100th on Sunday night.”
A SNAPSHOT OF DANIEL RICCIARDO’S F1 CAREER
Debut: 2011 British Grand Prix (HRT)
Teams: HRT (2011), Toro Rosso (2012-13), Red Bull (2014-)
Race starts: 99
Wins: 3 (2014 – Canadian GP, Hungarian GP, Belgian GP)
Pole positions: 1 (2016 – Monaco GP)
Best championship result: 3rd (2014)